Dear Gabi, What Should I Expect From Therapy?

Dear Gabi,

I have just approached a therapist about some sessions as I feel my crossdressing is starting to effect my relationship. My girlfriend is understanding in a way but is still not overly keen.

It is just me who will be attending, as we both feel there are issues I need to address which could all be linked. Short temper for no apparent reason like I get really mad about the most silly things. My girlfriend thinks it’s always before I need to dress. She does not want to see me dressed though. I think I need to get a good understanding of why I need to dress other than “I love that dress!!”. I feel I’m rambling on a bit so apologies for that. I don’t wish for it to go any further than our home but I don’t want to always be alone when dressed but not sure she will ever want to get involved.

I just wondered what is the main objective of this type of therapy. I am nervous and not sure what to expect.

Best regards,



Gabrielle HermosaDear Tina,

Going to see a counselor or therapist for the first time can be a little intimidating. That’s the bad news. The good news is, most counselors and therapists are very easy to talk to and do a fine job of putting clients at ease within minutes of the first session.

Unfortunately, not all therapists have your best interests in mind. Some can be condescending, belligerent, pushy, and tell you how you should live your life rather than allow you to reveal how you’d like to live your life. If you are not comfortable with your therapist after the first session or two, discontinue seeing them and seek out another. It is also important to be sure you’re seeing a therapist who is well experienced in transgender issues.

Make sure you’ve done your homework in choosing a therapist. There are still those who subscribe to the archaic notion that transgenderism (in all its forms) as some kind of “condition” or defect in need of a “cure” rather than a personal trait. I would equate that approach to trying to “cure” someone of being left-handed or having artistic tendencies. The former was actually still employed by grade school teachers not too many decades ago. Sounds silly now, but being left-handed was once thought of as some kind of “evil sign” or “abnormality” that should be overcome.

What to expect
In terms of the “main objective” for therapy, that is up to you. Discuss with your therapist whatever you feel needs attention or isn’t going well in you life. Be completely open and honest about your life and feelings. The therapist will listen to you and ask questions based on what you share. Their job is to bring out thoughts and feelings that you may not be looking at on a conscious level, hone in on problem areas, and help you figure out how to improve on things that need attention.

When you’re in session, treat it like a conversation and not a confessional. You’re not there to “confess” anything, but rather discuss your life and issues. Everything is confidential so you can talk openly and freely without fear of ridicule or any negative judgment.

You may find that some of your “issues” are not truly problems that need fixing, but rather just things you are self conscious about. Your therapist will help you explore these things.

Although I’m offering my personal insight on some of your concerns, these things should all be brought up and discussed in depth with your therapist.

Short temper set off by seemingly little things
I understand very well the feeling of restriction and anxiety brought on by periods of not being able to crossdress. It is a sentiment commonly shared and discussed in online crossdressing communities.

Perhaps it might help to break it down on a simpler level. Dealing with restrictions and lack of personal freedom in one’s life is often a heavy contributor of stress. Remove crossdressing from the equation, and it’s still pretty much the same. When people experience the feeling of constant restriction and lack of personal choice/freedom, it takes an emotional toll. It can cause a variety of negative reactions including, but not limited to, increased anxiety and irritability – two potent ingredients in a quick temper that is easily triggered by seemingly little things.

To reference the idiom the straw that broke the camel’s back, consider yourself a camel who’s back is already loaded up with emotional baggage (stress) because of your limitations in personal freedoms. In this case, crossdressing, or the inability to do so as often as you would like, may be a significant contributor to stress. Over time it builds up, until a point is reached in which that load of stress is a bit much to bear. Any additional “straw” tossed onto the already heavy load can cause the “back to break”, or inability to control one’s temper.

One of my personal theories on why crossdressing so relaxing and has stress relieving qualities is because it allows one to break free of the socially imposed restrictions of how a man must behave and/or appear. Increased personal freedom often holds the key to reducing one’s stress level. Most people take personal expression for granted because in most cases, it does not cross the social acceptance threshold.

A girlfriend that doesn’t want to see the feminine side of you
It sounds like your girlfriend is tolerant of your crossdressing to some extent, but may never completely warm up to it or choose to participate. If she prefers a man who is 100% masculine or lacking in any signs of “femininity”, there isn’t much that can be done about that. She’s allowed her personal preferences, just as we all are. At least she knows about this part of you, which is very important in any long term relationship that might someday lead to something more.

It is in your best interest (both of you) to discuss how this may affect your continued relationship over time. Do so when the time is right; in other words, when you understand this aspect of your life better. At the same time, you should probably not wait too long before getting into this with your girlfriend.

You should try to find out if she can ever be truly happy with a man who has a strong feminine side. If she needs her romantic male interest to be 100% masculine, then it’s not fair to her to remain in the relationship. You should allow her the opportunity to enter a relationship with a man who is more compatible with her personal interests/preferences on that level.

It is also not fair for you to have to settle for a woman who cannot love you fully and completely for who you truly are; in other words, a woman who will love you completely, and not just your man-side.

How would you feel about your girlfriend potentially never fully accepting this? How would you react if she were to some day proclaim that you have stop crossdressing or she’s leaving? How about the possibility that she may try to use this aspect of your life against you – in an attempt to embarrass you in the eyes of others, perhaps in order to gain compliance with her wishes? These are each real life examples of what regularly takes place in long-term relationships (often marriages) in which the woman is not accepting of her man’s feminine side. I strongly urge you to put serious thought into your future, and discuss with your girlfriend. Again, it’s not only unfair to you if she were to try and change you, but it is also unfair to her if she needs something in her man that you cannot adequately provide by design.

There are plenty of women out there who are, in fact, openly accepting of crossdressing men. Many also encourage and enjoy it. They’re not as easy to find, but it is something to think about. You may reach a point when you’d like to expand on this aspect of your life. I once believed it would be something I never shared with a soul, let alone do in public. Now my wife knows, is an active participant (and in many ways makes possible) this aspect of my life. I simply want to be able to be myself regardless of in-home privacy or out in public. There are several people I’ve come out to thus far.

I do not imply that the relationship with your current love interest is doomed to fail. There are plenty of happily married couples in which the woman is not an active participant in her husband’s crossdressing activities. So long as there is a mutual understanding and respect, things can work out well. Open, honest discussions with your girlfriend about things is what I recommend.

Why you “love that dress”
Being drawn to and/or exhibiting traits that are generally considered to be masculine or feminine is not dependent on one’s sexual organs. That is how it’s been treated in society for centuries, but that is not how it works in reality.

There has been change in the way society views displays of masculinity and femininity over the years. Women have won many freedoms in “masculine expression”. Having short hair, wearing pants, the right to an education and voting are some of the advances made by women. It is generally not even considered a sign of masculinity anymore for a woman to have short hair, wear pants, or even wear (only) men’s clothing (purchased from the men’s department in a retail outlet).

Although women have advanced, men have not. Any show of femininity, or non-masculinity, by men is generally regarded as a weakness and/or undesirable trait. This perception does not reflect the reality (as in, it is certainly not a weakness or flaw), but rather the current state of socially accepted “norms”.

Much of society still has a significant problem in accepting certain differences in people. Simply put, the divide between those who prefer more feminine looks and styles and those who do not, is not based on one’s genitalia, but rather one one’s being. Society (people) collectively decided how men and women should look and/or carry themselves, as in what is deemed “proper”. Nature made up how men and women truly are and feel inside. It’s a LOT more complex than that, but I’m trying to express a point in short, simple terms, without writing terabytes of data on the subject.

In short, you “love that dress” simply because you love that dress. It’s not too different than why a genetic woman loves that dress or those pants on sale, or shoes, or prefers short hair over long. It’s called personal preference and style… and it’s not based on, or limited to one side of the genetic gender divide, or the other, regardless of where the majority fall.

Related content:


12 thoughts on “Dear Gabi, What Should I Expect From Therapy?”

  1. Working with a therapist is an exercise in relationship building.

    It took me close to six months or a year to build the kind of trust I needed to have in my therapist to start opening up fully. The first bit of each session used to be random conversation about cooking, the weather or hobbies.

    I had to convince myself that he was there to help me, and not to judge or humiliate me for being ‘different’. (I think I had done a good enough job of that on my own, thank you!)

    A lot of the whole picture of being trans – whether crossdresser or transsexual – is about giving yourself permission to do the things that you need to do in order to be a complete human being. Often, I found that ‘giving myself permission’ meant not only doing things that pushed beyond my current boundaries, but also giving myself permission to ‘step back’ if something became overwhelming. Sometimes, we aren’t ready to take a step, and need to spend a little more time where we are before moving on.

    Plan on doing a lot of homework, too. In my case, the homework came in the form of writing a journal – which did a lot to help me articulate a seemingly incoherent bundle of emotions – desires, fears, anxieties all intertwined at first. When I look back at my early journal entries, I’m truly amazed at how far I’ve come. I’m no longer the bundle of indecision and whirling anxiety that I was when I first started on my journey.

    I can’t suggest much about your girlfriend. Sooner or later she’s going to have to become part of the story – or not a part of your story at all. It sounds to me as if she may need some help finding a way to adjust to your reality, just as you are struggling with some aspects of your needs.

    Above all, give yourself the time to smell the roses, wherever you are. There’s always moments of great beauty to be enjoyed – even when things are at their lowest for you.

    Best Wishes!

    1. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences in therapy, Michelle. :) I think you hit upon some excellent points/ideas – especially the journal. It is an excellent way to sort out thoughts on a very personal level, and provides a clear look at where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. Being able to read and gauge personal growth over time can be so helpful. I keep a personal journal as well. Being able to get personal feelings, ideas, and frustrations out in such a personal way can be therapeutic in and of itself. Most of us have a built-in need to get things off our chest. Writing it down often accomplishes that to some extent. It’s been helpful to me in that respect, anyway.

      I love your closing statement. Taking the time to “smell the roses” and enjoy the moment in life is so important. It is something I often fail to do myself. I thank God my wife reminds me to do just that from time to time.

  2. I so wish this would cease to be an issue. Why is it those that were discriminated against in the past, continue discrimination practices that are just as wrong.

    I too know about the short temper brought on by being limited. I am limited in not only my CDing (or dressing androgynously), but I am also restricted in the colors I can choose to wear, or accessories (Being a Goth, these are common.

    Due to this fantastic economy brought on by men in suits :), I am having to live with my mother. She is one of the few people in my life that does not know of my skirts, or CDing, and also has seen me in only the more “manly” Goth look (no make up, just dark clothes)

    She wonders why I snap at her every now and then:) I am not mean, but I am certainly not overly sweet or pleasant to be around.

    I could not imagine being with someone that did not accept every aspect of me. Or someone that wanted me to hide from her. That to me is just not right. There are so many relationships out there that just should not be, but are forced to happen anyway, leading to misery and strife for both parties.

    The other area in my life I am restricted in my stylings is my profession, but there I get to do what I love more than CD ing, or wearing fun clothing….fly.

    Being able to fly in Andro mode, would be fantastic.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Pythos. :) No doubt about it – life is a complex and complicated adventure in rules, restrictions, and forced (or perceived forced) self-repression. The basic logic seems so simple – if something restricts us or holds us back from that which we would choose to be if the choice were ours to make (which it usually is, at least to some extent), then we would remove those restrictive obstacles from our lives, or remove ourselves from those restrictive circumstances. Beyond the basic logic enters human emotions. We end up in relationships in which we do not fully disclose everything about ourselves up front, and then find ourselves emotionally attached to the other party… and also find that they are not happy about all that they have discovered about us. Forget about personal appearance, this goes well beyond when it comes to romantic relationships – the end result is usually the same: it becomes clear that the relationship does not have enough compatible foundation in which to continue building a healthy, stable relationship on, and yet it is painful to discontinue the relationship, and so we choose not to end it and try to avoid the intense pain caused by breaking up. In return, we find ourselves living with continued restrictions, that are painful in and of themselves, although usually served up in smaller, more manageable doses. Those doses add up over time, and we loose our temper under the weight of all those “little straws” that we once believed to be manageable. The same goes for professional relationships with employers. We know the general rules when we enter the job and believe we can deal with the restrictions brought on by those rules. Over time, we learn of more restrictions (job politics, etc.) and those rules become a bit much. Some will break under the pressure of restriction and leave the job, while others will not see an alternative and continue to submit to what amounts to misery administered in small doses over time that builds up and… again, happiness is lost, and tempers fly (no pun intended) as a result.

      The socially imposed rules are pretty senseless and yet we must submit to at least some of them on some level in order to survive in society. For those who can exist happily within the rules (in other words, the rules do not impose enough upon their own chosen live style or standard of living), there is no problem. Unfortunately for people like us (who are not happy living in the “norm”), they represent the majority.

      The question is: how can we win over society in a positive way so that we can exist among those who are different than ourselves without them feeling intimidated, threatened, or otherwise completely weirded out by those of us who cannot be happy conforming to the “norm”, but rather need to be who we are. We need to change the game somehow. Putting laws into place to protect people’s right to be themselves without being punished for it (as in being fired from a job, etc.) is a good start. That alone will not do much to win over mainstream society. Almost all rules an employer must follow can be worked around. I’ve sat on a panel personally and been a part of it myself. In those cases, I am happy to say that the objective was to remove employees who were known to be a threat to the company, but the evidence to reflect it was not strong enough to terminate them on those grounds, so they were let go because other reasons that would have been very difficult for them to challenge on legal grounds. One way was to document that “the project they were hired for did not materialize in the way that was hoped and there was no longer sufficient work available to justify their continued employment.” (nutshell version) It’s legal (or extraordinarily difficult to challenge legally) and quite effective. A similar approach can be used to remove people from a job for just about anything – the *real* reason need never be documented, thus bypassing any laws put in effect to protect people who are “different”. To reiterate, we need to win over society, not just court the court systems (forgive the pun). We need to make it ok to reveal that we’re trans early into a relationship so that if the other party is not happy about that, the relationship can be terminated before strong emotional attachment takes place that will complicate things (that being generally being too painful to end a relationship that may not be healthy to continue).

      Until we can win over society on the whole, these socially imposed restrictions will continue to wreak havoc on the relative minority of us who “offend the norm” by being our harmless selves.

      Jeez, that probably should have been a whole new post of its own… but no time right now to polish it up. Oh well. This is what my raw, unedited, un-proofed writing looks like. If I am lucky, I didn’t make too many type-o’s or “muscle memory” accidental word swaps.

  3. Gabrielle, Pythos:

    Acceptance is something that has to come with time and normalization in the public mind.

    The implications of such a statement are enormous, though. For they require people who may not be comfortable with being publicly visible among their peers to become so.

    It is in fact this very area where crossdressers and transsexuals share common societal and political goals. We both benefit from those who are open about their identities, and live happy, balanced and successful lives.

    Certainly, in my office, there are a few hundred people who have some idea what it means to work with a transsexual.

    Ironically, it’s probably easier for a transsexual to achieve a degree of social acceptance because we are actually less transgressive of societal norms than a crossdresser is. I came out at work, and went full time as a woman – I haven’t looked back. Clearly, that is a far more clear statement of intent for others than many crossdressers would be comfortable with.

    To be sure, one of the best things any of us can do is be ‘out’ when we live our day to day lives. I don’t mean telling every person we meet, but rather making the mundane tedium of life part of what we engage in when giving expression to the ‘other self’ (please, forgive the clumsiness of my wording here – I’m grasping!) – things like doing the grocery shopping, for example

    I found that integrating the mundane chores in my early transition days had two lovely effects. One, it helped me begin to feel comfortable with myself … at a time when I was at best marginally passable. But the second, and perhaps more important, was that a small community of people that I saw regularly (but only casually) got to see a transperson living exactly the same kind of life that they did.

    To be honest, I can only think of once or twice that I ever had any problems with other patrons being rude to me, and once my presentation got fairly settled, that ceased to be an issue at all. (granted, I wasn’t trying to be confrontational in the least)

    Live well, live in the open, and strangely enough you learn that the world makes room for you.

    1. You bring up good points, Michelle. :) Sorry about the delay in response, btw. Hectic, busy life.

      I agree that we all need to get out and live life as we are in order to “normalize” it within society. I also agree that it is probably generally easier to achieve for transsexuals than for many crossdressers. My public crossdressing outings have been somewhat complicated to date. I don’t pass (don’t let my carefully selected photos lead you to believe otherwise), and therefore tend to draw attention in public. That attention can be good because it has the potential to create positive awareness. It can and has also lead to people behaving poorly toward me.

      It comes down to being willing to invest the extra time to get ready for, and risking very real increased potential for danger in daring to go out in public en femme, vs. just wanting to go about the day without additional complications. It would be nice to be able to simply go about life as I am, but that is not a reality in my life today. It’s ridiculous having to take extra precautions venturing out en femme, but I’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future, even if not as often as I’d like. In all honesty, I don’t do it for anyone but myself.

    2. “To be sure, one of the best things any of us can do is be ‘out’ when we live our day to day lives.”

      “But the second, and perhaps more important, was that a small community of people that I saw regularly (but only casually) got to see a transperson living exactly the same kind of life that they did.”

      Bravo Michelle! For both your excellent advice and for being an ambassador for all of us. Just by being a nice, friendly, and level headed person you are making a good impression on those you come in contact with.

      When people start talking about how we are sick, depraved, and perverted individuals, those who you have touched will think of Michelle and how she is none of those things. They will think of what a pleasant and impressive person you are. Hopefully they will speak up, but even if they don’t they are not going to be swayed by the bigots and will mention you when talking with friends if the subject comes up.

      I wish that I had the courage that you do to let people see who you are. Maybe I’ll find that courage someday because I know for a fact you are making a difference in the attitudes people have about us. I know that this works because I have done it in regards to another passion in my life which began right around the same time as I began crossdressing more than half a century ago. My guess is that you will have a greater effect on people than you can even imagine.

      Congratulations on a job well done and I wish you the best for a long and happy lifetime of enjoyment being your self. :-)


  4. I am in a special category of possible problems.

    I am in the aviation profession, and I dare not broach the subject that I do something that in the DSM is recognized as a pathology, for some unknown reason.

    I would very much like to wear and appear how I wish and have my talent as a mechanic and a pilot speak for me, not what I wear, or better yet the idea of a crossdressing straight guy with an exotic being a hell of a mechanic or pilot. LOL.

    But unfortunately we live in a world that lets appearances speak about a person’s ability.

    What we need is people that do not work in an industry controlled by feds to come out, and ALSO NOT transition. This is something that does not help CDers. It is common thought that if a guy dresses like a girl it is only a small amount of time before he goes all the way. Unfortunately it is more true than false, because the men who want to remain men, HIDE!!!

    But at the same time, someone who is out needs to be quite stable financially, and have the ability to sue anyone that unfairly fires them or attempts to ruin their lives.

    Right, gotta go.

  5. Pythos,

    I think you have described the space that is perhaps the most difficult for an individual to live in – that of the full-time androgyne. (By androgyne I mean someone whose presentation and identity are consistently neither specifically masculine or feminine, but rather occupy the space between)

    I’m deeply sympathetic to this – it’s a space I briefly toyed with myself, in part hoping at the time that I would be able to live in that in between space happily without transitioning fully. (That didn’t work out for me, but I respect that it is a space others find quite comfortable)

    In truth, the issues of employment and harassment apply to all members of the transgender community – and represent one of the strongest areas of intersection of common interests. Whether one is a transsexual, crossdresser or purposefully an androgyne, the risks of employment discrimination and harassment affect us all.

    The good news is that there are a significant number of transsexuals out there today who live quite openly in society and make no excuses about their history. In this respect, this is one area where we need to build on each other’s successes. I know such a position will anger some transsexuals, but it is my opinion that where there is shared, common cause, we not only should collaborate, but in fact must do so in order to make real gains – legally and socially.

    You are, of course, correct to point out that the first few who choose to openly and publicly live in that space will face serious challenges to their legitimacy. They will need to rely upon the existing case law and history that transsexuals have created in the last fifty years.

    … and ironically, the crossdressers and androgynes are ultimately the public faces of those who are transgender, simply because you will be more visible than those who ultimately transition. Even though I choose to be fairly out about my own life, I am ultimately relatively invisible to most people in society – just another woman going about her life. (a bizarre combination of the effects of hormones, body language and how the public actually perceives things)

    It will be a long term process to normalize things in the minds of society – possibly extending well beyond your life or mine.

  6. LOL,

    I wish I could be full time, and more often look how I wish, and act how I like, however as I have told Gabriele, I am for the most part very dull looking in male mode, aside from my wearing of leggings or skirts more often than jeans :)

    But if you look on my flicker site you would see the styles I like the most in my Goth section, though I am getting a liking to my more Fem self too :). My androgen self is heavily toward the fem side…simply because I like it more.

  7. I get snappy when I need time to myself and someone else starts asking me to figure something out for them that they are fully capable of doing. I feel like I am wasting my energy repeating myself and not finding the answers to my own issues. CDing for me is a very personal experience, I wonder if involving your SO involvement complicates it just enough that you loose some of the freedom. In my case, the CDing is like a vacation or escape when I can forget about everything else. Whenever my SO is involved their is some pressure to act a certain way and it feels more like acting than escaping.

  8. Hello everyone
    In response to this part by Gabi

    “There are still those who subscribe to the archaic notion that transgenderism (in all its forms) as some kind of “condition” or defect in need of a “cure” rather than a personal trait. ”

    I think this is because a lot of transgendered people seem very unhappy and want to resolve their situation as it is affecting their life.
    Ie its a priori a problem, which the specialist feels duty-bound to help solved in some way.
    Just my 2c

    “What we need is people that do not work in an industry controlled by feds to come out, and ALSO NOT transition. This is something that does not help CDers. It is common thought that if a guy dresses like a girl it is only a small amount of time before he goes all the way. Unfortunately it is more true than false, because the men who want to remain men, HIDE!!!”

    Such an interesting point, thanks!

    In the literature and forums I can find online, a typical life arc for transgendered people of the so-called heterosexual type to live as men and then feel the need to transition later in life, with much calamity.

    Im 30 and thinking about my future life and Im wondering what will happen. Will I do that?
    I mean, I like being a guy these days, Ive got into it and enjoy it. Will the fact that I crossdressed as a kid mean I will definitely feel the need to transition.
    Can I responsibly start a relationship, even with someone who Ive been open with, knowing this is coming?

    There seems to be precious few examples except Gabys I can find where people torn by sexual dysphoria that they HAVE to transition or go mad, and just live as happy CDs. Pretty much All, and I mean all, as in hundreds and hundreds, of the stories seem to be about men moaning about their inner woman and their unhappiness and hollow marriages, and it all sounds depressing as hell, especially for the poor wives..
    A much smaller proportion were written by the sort of strong proud trangendered people like Michelle, in the comments above, but they were outnumbered by a lot of what I would call whiners.
    I think crossdressing as a child causes a lot of shame and pain, but coming out to understanding parents really seems to replace a lot of those memories with a happeier glow of a problem shared and so half, and halfed again down to nothing..
    Is it normal that now I dont feel like I have an inner woman anymore, its just melted into my inner me? These days my idea of “being femenine” isnt secretly trying on my mums cloths, its going out with men or women I find attractive, or watching porn I like, or shit, ironing my clothes or listening intently to what someone is saying and actually caring about their feelings.. stuff my younger self though was terrible and taboo and girly..
    Has anyone else had similar thoughts? or violently contradictory ones? Id be glad to know your thoughts.

    sorry in my earlier paragraph i meant to write
    “There seems to be precious few examples except Gabys I can find where people are not so severely torn by sexual dysphoria that they HAVE to transition or go mad, and just decent and fulfilled lives as happy CDs. ”

    I.e. theres a lack of positive rolemodels. Except Gaby, whos awesome.

Comments are closed.